We're nearly a fifth of the way into the 21st century with no flying cars in sight. That's one prediction for the year 2020 that's gone by the wayside. But other predictions—from Brexit to fitness trackers to self-driving cars—turned out to be right on the money. Ten 2020 predictions, and where the world stands now, per USA Today:
- Life expectancy: The inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil wrongly predicted in 1999 that life expectancy would be over 100 years by 2019. The average life expectancy globally was just 72.6 years this year.
- Health and fitness trackers: Some of Kurzweil’s predictions did come true. For example, he imagined "computerized health monitors built into watches, jewelry, and clothing which diagnose both acute and chronic health conditions are widely used" while "computers are now largely invisible" and "embedded everywhere."
- Human tracking: Kurzweil was also correct that "each individual's practically every move [will be] stored in a database somewhere." Just this weekend, the New York Times detailed means of tracking a person through cellphone data, noting "across the world, any protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is tracked."
- Population growth: The International Food Policy Research Institute was very nearly correct with its 1994 prediction that the world population would hit 8 billion by 2020. As of June, it was 7.7 billion, according to the UN.
- China over US: Futurists Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden in 1997 predicted that China would overtake the US as the world's largest economy. It still trails behind, though China and India are expected to top the US in the next decade.
- Self-driving cars: Kurzweil thought self-driving cars would be in the works in the 1990s "with implementation on [major] highways feasible during the first decade of the twenty-first century." Such cars are on the roads in several cities, of course, but are not widely used yet.
- Flying cars and people: In 1968, mathematician and scientist DG Brennan imagined antigravity cars and jetpacks that could keep a person flying for half an hour. We're still dreaming of those.
- Virtual assistants: Bill Gates envisioned personal devices that "connect and sync all your devices in a smart way … and allow them to exchange data" in 1999. As Siri or Alexa will tell you, that prediction certainly came true.
- Declining nationalism: "By the year 2018 nationalism should be a waning force in the world," MIT political science professor Ithiel de Sola Pool wrote in 1968. But the opposite is true, as shown by President Trump's election and the push for Brexit.
- Boris Johnson and Brexit: Speaking of Brexit, Boris Johnson was a 32-year-old columnist in 1997 when the Independent impressively predicted that he would "renegotiate EU membership" for Britain as a Cabinet member in the year 2020. That seems likely to be the case.
See the full list of 20 from USA Today
or check out some of the Los Angeles Times'
predictions for 2020. (Read more predictions